If you are an HCHC patient, please call before you come in for any appointment in any department if you have reason to think that you are at risk of infection – fever, cough, or exposure to someone who has these symptoms or had been diagnosed with COVID-19. You can find the phone numbers for all of our sites here.
We would like to give you an update on how HCHC is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this may affect your access to care. We want to stress that HCHC is committed to supporting our patients and community in any way we can. We are making decisions every day about the best way to respond to this crisis while keeping our staff, our patients, and our communities as safe as possible.
Si necesita leer este correo electrónico en español, utilice este enlace: https://www.hchcweb.org/covid-19-recursos-y-respuesta-de-hchc/
HCHC is keeping our staff, patients, and communities safe
The first priority for HCHC is the safety of its staff and patients. We have invested in new equipment, including new ways to ensure that the air in our facilities at minimum meets all federal guidelines for infection control. We have instituted new procedures, including daily staff health attestations, new check-in procedures, and new scheduling systems. All of the changes will take some time for everyone to get used to, but please be patient and understand that we have implemented them for your and your family’s safety.
Specifically, HCHC, its sites, providers, and services meet all of the required state elements for Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the state reopening. These include activities related to:
- Personal Protective Equipment and Other Essential Supplies
- Workforce Safety
- Patient Safety
- Infection Control
- Prioritization of Services
To see a signed copy of our attestation, please click here.
In keeping with Phase 3 state guidelines, HCHC is still limiting certain services to reduce the risk of infection of our patients and staff. At this time, many medical and all behavioral health visits will continue to be by telephone, and some types of services in all departments will be postponed as we prioritize visits. We will continue to see patients in all of our locations to meet their urgent needs. All patients must be seen by appointment and should call first.
Patients with respiratory issues and/or fever should call for assistance. If your provider determines that you need to be evaluated in the health center, you will be given specific instructions to be seen at our Huntington Health Center, where we have the ability to safely evaluate you. We are currently NOT able to see patients with acute respiratory issues or fevers in our Worthington or Amherst centers. We do NOT currently have the ability to test patients for COVID-19 infection.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
We know that patients continue to have a lot of questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and when they can get it. We are doing everything we can to prepare for when we can give our patients the vaccine. Below is an update on our planning efforts. We have also included important information for patients 65 years and older and for patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Information for patients 65 years old or older
- Recently, the federal government announced that states may choose to offer the vaccine to those age 65 years and older. The state of Massachusetts is reviewing the federal government's announcement. However, at this point, the state has not changed the age criteria.
- The state of Massachusetts is currently planning to offer vaccines to those age 75 years and over beginning in February.
- If Massachusetts does make any changes to its current plans or age criteria, we will follow the state guidance. We will notify patients of any changes through various means on communication and this website.
Information for pregnant or breastfeeding patients:
Many patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding have questions about whether they should get the vaccine when they can. Your provider at HCHC will be able to answer your questions, so please call and you can find some frequently asked questions answered on Mass General Brigham's website.
Where will the vaccine be available?
- HCHC is planning for a vaccination clinic in Huntington that will be easily accessible, including at all of our medical offices.
- The vaccine may also be available through city and town clinics, local pharmacies and state vaccination sites. We will update our patients about all their vaccination options when t hey become available.
How will I know when I can get the vaccine?
- We will communicate with you regularly. We will send you a message when we have details about the process of scheduling an appointment.
- You can find updated information and the answers to frequently asked questions on this page. We update it regularly with new information so check back often. You can also find more information about the vaccine and the state's phases at mass.gov.
We are offering the following services. Please note that due to state infection control requirements, we must limit the number of patients that we see at each site each day, and therefore there may be a wait to schedule some types of non-urgent appointments.
- All of our sites, in Worthington, Huntington, and Amherst, are answering phone calls and determining what visits need to occur in the health center. To ensure the safety of our patients, our staff are talking to each patient and making decisions about whether the visit can delayed, done virtually, or if it is a visit that requires a visit to a health center site. Please call so that we can provide you with the safest and most appropriate level of care.
- Dental and Optometry services: Services provided by these clinics are being scheduled to prioritize safety and based on the prioritization of patients’ needs. We are still offering emergency services, so please call if you require immediate care. Our receptionists are calling patients with routine dental and optometry appointments to schedule those appointments based on urgency.
- Medical services only. Medical care is being conducted virtually when possible, and some visits will be rescheduled. We are currently scheduling on-site visits for high-priority preventative care, such as pediatric visits and chronic disease care for high-risk patients. Patients who require in-person evaluation for urgent services or procedures should call to discuss this with a medical provider first, before arriving at the health center, so that we can arrange treatment in the safest manner possible.
- Behavioral Health services by telephone only. Behavioral Health providers are contacting all patients with appointments to convert them to virtual visits. We are accepting new intakes for behavioral health, so please call if you need to speak with a therapist, and staff will determine the best way to meet your needs.
- Community Programs staff are still available to support our patients with their non-clinical needs.
- Our Community Health Workers are actively working with members of the community, patients and non-patients, to ensure that we are supporting their access to food, medication, and other supports to keep them healthy and at home.
- Our Domestic Violence Victim Advocates are still meeting with people who need them in the safest and most appropriate way, and are working closely with the State Police to be responsive to individual’s safety needs.
- Our Health Access Insurance Navigators are conducting phone visits with community members who need help navigating changes in job status/income. They can assist with signing up for Medicaid or other insurances, to ensure that everyone has the access to health care that they need.
- Our Family Center is closed, but its staff are providing daily emails and sometimes phone calls to parents to provide support and guidance for those home with children.
There are currently many kinds of testing for COVID. Our testing partners are currently using a test to help diagnosis acute infection with COVID. The test involves a swab of the back part of the nose and is referred to by many different names ( “RNA test”, “molecular test”, or “PCR test”).
Many patients are asking us about COVID antibody (serology) tests, which test for the body’s immune system response after infection. We are not offering this test at this time. Patients who are interested in antibody testing should be aware of the following:
- There is a significant chance that an antibody test may be falsely positive or falsely negative.
- We do not currently know whether a truly positive antibody test can distinguish between an individual who has recently been infected (and might soon develop symptoms) and an individual who has recovered from infection.
- We do not know if individuals are immune to repeat COVID infection if they have positive antibodies. If it becomes clear that there is some degree of immunity after infection, we also do not know how long that immunity might last.
What can I do avoid being infected by COVID-19?
The best precaution is to regularly wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
For much more detail on prevention efforts, please visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website on Prevention and Treatment.
How can I manage my stress and anxiety about the epidemic?
There are a number of behavioral health care resources for coping with fear, anxiety, and increased stress related to COVID-19:
- CDC’s web page with information and resources specifically for mental health support:
- Disaster distress hotline that people can call or text 24/7 to reach someone to talk to:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. People with deafness or hearing loss can use their preferred relay service to call 1-800-985-5990.
- Anxiety prevention/ stress reduction tips:
- Resources and support for talking with children about COVID-19:
- Article from Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-talk-to-children-about-the-coronavirus-2020030719111
- For parents of younger children: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus
- A cartoon for kids of all ages: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/28/809580453/just-for-kids-a-comic-exploring-the-new-coronavirus
Where can I get more information?
For more information please see the Center for Disease Control website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html
or Massachusetts Department of Public Health at